Tag Archives: Family

(356) Zanies

As I wind down this blog, it is on my mind that I never finished my Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. According to what I have documented, I was up to the letter “S” on September 2nd. I’ve been wanting to get back to it, but most of what I want to write about demands a lot of time — something I just haven’t had.

For the letters T,U,V, and W I have some things planned that will be fit in well with ending this blog year. That leaves X-Y-Z, that are always considered as one.  I’ve decided that since I can basically make the rules on my own blog, I am going to do these out of order, and attack X-Y-Z today.  The rest will be coming within the next week.


Why is it that some days just stand out in our minds? I have a handful of days in my life that actually don’t have anything outstanding that happened —  they are ordinary days — yet somehow become memorable days. Such was July 28, 1979.

At the time my parents, along with two of my brothers and my sister, were living in the Chicago area.  I found out that my brother’s girlfriend, Donna, was going to be in Chicago in late July. Flights were pretty cheap to Chicago from Cleveland, so I decided to fly in for the weekend. My brother Matt was going to be driving Donna back to Cleveland on Sunday, so I decided that I’d ride back with them.

I flew in Friday night, and I remember nothing about that except that my parents were heading to Cleveland for some reason, so we were alone at the house. There was something about us all being young adults and having the whole house and city to ourselves — it was a first for us.

On Saturday we decided to go hang around downtown Chicago. Matt and Donna were college students, and Martin was still in high school, so this plan was not to do anything fancy. It was just to be there. Donna had her camera and took pictures. Here is a little photo journey.

Yes, there we are rolling down the hill in a park, downtown Chicago
Buckingham Fountain, later to become popular in the opening of the show “Married With Children”
The Air Show was taking place in Chicago that weekend. Everywhere we went, loud planes were flying overhead and entertaining us.
Taking a break to watch the show, our 70’s perms blowing in the wind. And look at those snazzy flip-flops!

After hanging around downtown all afternoon, we drove back home to change and grab a bite to eat. Then Matt, Donna, and I went back to Old Town, the entertainment strict,  to Zanies Comedy Club.  These types of clubs were just getting popular, and I don’t think I had ever been to one before we went to Zanies. We laughed our asses off! The main attraction was a female comic with an accordian by the name of Judy Tenuta.  She would later become fairly popular on cable television comedy specials (see video below to see if you remember her.)  We bought Zanies t-shirts that were a take-off on Superman shirts (also popular at this time with the Christopher Reeve film.) All in all, this day sticks in my mind for the perfect weather, relaxing company, and the excitement of big city Chicago on a small budget. No need to go to fancy restaurants or do any shopping. Just walking around, rolling down hills, and watching the free air show made for a perfect day with family.

Matt and Donna are still together after all these years.

(354)The Unspoken

42nd bday
My 42nd birthday, the last I would share with my father. I bought my first guitar about a month later.

Every Sunday I look forward to checking out the poem that is printed in the New York Times Magazine, because it often prompts a poem of my own.  I’ve gone several weeks now without being inspired, but then today I read a poem by Geffrey Davis called “What I Mean When I Say Chinook Salmon” (read it here) and I immediately wrote this poem:

What I Mean When I Say I Love Music

My father held the unspoken version

of how to be a musician. This is how we practice.

This is how we improvise when it’s our turn. He would

stand and play the solo and everyone would applaud.

We knew that sound already, having heard it after dinner,

over and over coming from his bedroom, his practice spot,


a memory of melodies, the tenor of the tenor saxophone,

as it revisits me at times, like at the end of Diana Krall’s version

of “Why Should I Care,” or at a Hall and Oates concert when the

sax player steps forward. I absorbed from my father the knowing

that to be a musician is to have music in your heart, it is collaboration

and occasional solos, it is standing on the shoulders of those who

came before and taught you all you need to know, and mostly


about not being distracted or displaced, but to know that the

only place the music truly resides is in you.


(352) Angel

It was the summer of 1997, the month I was told I might have ovarian cancer. My friends and I had tickets for Lilith Fair, the first year, and nothing was going to stop me from being there. I recall Sara MacLachlan, Paula Cole, and Mary Chapin Carpenter were on the bill.  I don’t remember who else.

I was in the throes of getting several tests before my scheduled surgery, and the day after the concert I was to have a procedure.  I needed to be cleaned out for this procedure, so had to bring a huge plastic jug of stuff to drink while at the concert, in order to maintain the proper timeline. I was fortunate they let me into Blossom Music Center with the jug, as they were being very picky about what was being allowed into this outdoor venue.

At one point of the concert I left our seats and made one of many treks to the bathroom. I decided it would be better to park myself on the hilly grass rather than keep going back into the pavilion. The moon was out and Sara was singing. I didn’t know her music that well at this point. I rested on the grass, looking at the moon, and realized she was singing about an angel.

In the arms of the angel

Fly away from here…

You are pulled from the wreckage

Of your silent reverie.

You’re in the arms of the angel

May you find some comfort there.

This was the first time I would hear her soon to be hit “Angel.” There, alone in my own reverie, future uncertain, I heard these words for the first time. And yes, I “found some comfort there.”

After my surgery, this was the first song I would have my friend play for me in my hospital room. I had brought my CD player with me specifically to listen to certain music that I believed was helping me heal that summer: James Taylor’s Hourglass, Sara’s Surfacing, and Gabrielle Roth’s Ritual.

Less than a year later, I would hear the song at a significant time. I had just left my father’s hospital room and was heading toward the parking garage. I had this thought that my prayer for him was to be in the arms of the angels, perhaps because the last prayer we had prayed together was the Guardian Angel Prayer. I heard “Angel” as I was getting on the highway.  Not long after I got home, I would get the call that he had made his transition.

Sadly, I feel “Angel” got overplayed, and it is really hard for me to hear it with any of the feelings I used to associate with it. Regardless, it is still a lovely song, and it helped me tremendously through a difficult time.

Here is a beautiful version with Emmylou Harris.


(349) Time and Distance

In 2007, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I produced a draft of a book, much of it set in Athens, Ohio. The problem was I hadn’t been to Athens since 1978.  I was going from pure memory.

My plan was to work on revising the novel, so when I made a trip to Ohio in 2008 I enlisted my niece Cheryl to be my tour guide around Athens. She graduated Ohio University in 2006, so had recent memories of the place.

On a beautiful late July day, we drove to Athens. Cheryl has a degree in Journalism and works as a writer, so she was the perfect companion to assist me in my writing project. We spent the day at the University and around the town. The locations of certain places were quite different than my memory had allowed, and Cheryl also introduced me to some places I wasn’t familiar with, like the unmarked graves of the patients of a former mental hospital, and the other graveyard with the angel statue that is said to cry real tears. All great stuff for my book.  I insisted we go to Stroud’s Run, a park that I recall going to for cook-outs when my boyfriend went to school at OU.

On the way home, we stopped in Columbus to catch up with her sisters Emily and Kim. All in all it was a great day.

And the novel — hasn’t been touched since. By the time I got home in early August school was starting once again. I did do some more planning work around the book, and I have my notes.  Not sure if or when I will ever get back to it.

Perhaps my inspiration is near.  I just found out that Cheryl will be in Florida next week, and we have plans to get together. As an active and paid writer in our family, she remains a kind of muse to me. Let’s see what happens once we get together again. I know that part of the process of writing involves time and distance, so I don’t feel bad about not pursuing the revision.  But now, as I sit and write this, I am thinking that perhaps there is more here for me to think about. So I will. Promise.

(332) Magical Coin Purse

She had her own car. She had her own job. And most of all, she had that clear plastic zippered coin purse that always held an array of what seemed to be magical coins. This was the 1960’s when a nickel could get me a pretty nice candy bar. To see all that change in one place was enchanting. You didn’t even have to open it up — you could see what coins you had from the outside. How cool is that?

Of course, I didn’t realize that my grandmother worked in a factory at what was probably a pretty dull and/or back-breaking job, or that she was there because circumstances had forced her to work. I just knew that my mother — a housewife with no car or coin purses of her own — was in quite different circumstances. I know my mother had to cut coupons to scrape a little change for herself.  Five cents off a can of Ajax would be her pin money.

The difference between these two women had an effect on me even at a young age. Even though I always thought I’d grow up to be just like my mom, I think there was a secret wish to be more independent like my grandmother. And every time I think about this distinction, the first thing that comes to mind is that magical coin purse. It had an undeniable power that still speaks to the 7-year-old inside me.

(318) Talk Me Down

It took me by surprise.

I was driving along Six Mile Cypress Drive, appreciating this perfect weather day and noticing the wood storks have returned. I had just passed the light at Metro Parkway when I saw it: a flashing sign advertising pet adoption day at our local Humane Society.

Cats $20

Dogs $50

I suddenly had this urge to drive in and see if there was a dog just for us.

Since our Macbeth passed on in April 2011, Jim and I haven’t thought once about having a dog again. They are expensive. They take a lot of attention. It has been easier to travel and do the things we want to do without one.

Yet, the tug…

I came home and said: Talk Me Down.

He didn’t say much.

Then I said, Do you want a dog?

He just shrugged.

I told him he has two hours to decide. The sale only goes until 3:30.

Me and Macbeth, 2010

(314) Gold

Over the weekend I learned that my brother lost his job. He is 54-years-old. I feel for him. It has made me sad to know this.

I created my Lyric Series to connect lyrics of songs to events. Today Ashley Monroe’s “Mayflowers” spoke to me. I soon realized an image in the song made me think of Martin. When he was young his hair was clearly blonde. As he grew, it turned darker. Yet, I still think of him as golden-headed.

Richie and Martin celebrating Martin’s twelfth birthday. One of my favorite pictures of all time.

I haven’t seen my brother since 2012, and am not sure when I will see him again. The image conveyed in this one part of the song makes me think of him:

What I wouldn’t give to see you

with the gold back in your hair.

If I could look out the kitchen window

in the garden

And see you standing there.

(289) Sunset Memories

Just woke from an after school nap, and I’m getting ready to make a teriyaki stir-fry dinner. I had almost forgotten I haven’t blogged yet today.  Then, thanks to Facebook memories, I was reminded of five years ago this evening when my sister and I took her two boys to sunset at Bunche Beach. I know this week has been a lot about the beauty of Southwest Florida in October–I can’t help it. When the weather drops out of the constant 90’s where it has been since May, it is cause for celebration. Here are a few photos from that night, with spontaneous captions.

2010 was the year that Margie and I began to live closer to each other than we had since 1977.
2010 was the year that Margie and I began to live closer to each other than we had since 1977.
It was a beautiful night with sandbars for Ricky to run on as the sky glowed around him.
It was a beautiful night with sandbars for Ricky to run on as the sky glowed around him.
No matter where we are or how we are feeling, the big sky is always there to soothe us.
No matter where we are or how we are feeling, the big sky is always there to soothe us.


(270) “For All” My Family

Martin, Richie, Margie, Matt Christmas Eve 1971

Today I was planning on posting this photo on Facebook just for a throwback.

But then I read Gary Snyder’s poem “For All.” And I couldn’t get the idea of a poem out of my head.

So I wrote my own version which is below. It wasn’t until I was done I realized that I have been influenced by Pope Francis. Last night I heard his off-the-cuff homily at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia. His reminder to take care of the children and the elders is near and dear to my heart.

The children in this photo are growing into elders now. One left us long ago. Family is family forever, however. We continue to learn and grow together, even if we are far apart. We live and grow through our memories — those tiny little things that matter more and more as we age.

Here is my “For All” poem, for my family.

Ah to be alive

on a Christmas Eve 1971

holding stacks of gifts

in front of the Christmas tree

blinking lights and icicles

all our favorite ornaments

greeting cards strung like clothes on a line.

Anticipation and excitement

how will we sleep tonight?

jingle bells

singing inside

carol music, chant music

smell of peppermint and spice.

I pledge allegiance.

I pledge allegiance to the

preservation of memory

of all my siblings and

what we shared

one family

in loyalty

under God

with joyful reminiscing for all.

Richie took this picture of me.

(269) Jim’s Birthday Card

It’s my husband Jim’s birthday. I decided the best gift for him today, besides a yummy Mexican dinner at Cantina Laredo, is a little “through the years” tribute to my man. I’m not trying to hit every dimension of our lives –that is too long for a blog. Here is just a sampling.

Jim’s birthday makes me think about our romantic dreams when we were young. We talked of growing old together and now, well, we are. One thing about aging that is certain: as we get closer to the end, we treasure every moment even more.

Just as I was preparing to insert the photos here, a song from Don Henley’s new album came up with these lyrics.  So fitting:

A long long time ago when we were young and pretty
We ruled the world, we stopped the time
we knew it all, we owned this city
running with the crowd, carefree and proud I heard
Somebody say
Take a picture of this, take a picture of this.

With great love and devotion, this photo journey is for Jim:

August 2015
Jim with long time friend Russ Fernlund, 2012
With Ricky and Michael 2011
Jim’s birthday 2001 featuring some of our elders — Gin, Skip, and Aunt Joanne. May they all rest in peace.
Celebrating Jim’s birthday at the cabin in 1994. Aunt Joanne put a candle into the dessert she always had for him — a chocolate eclair.
Jim enjoying his 50th birthday party in 1992
Jim and his boys: Dan, Scott, and Wayne 1989
Jim and I, September 1982
Jim, 1963
Jim, 1944

And finally, I dedicate this song.